Discovering Northern Thailand: What to Do in Chiang Rai

White Temple - Chiang Rai

Filled with a rich history and natural beauty, Chiang Rai is growing in popularity among Thailand’s international travelers. Unlike some of the country's larger cities, this northernmost province of Thailand still retains its small town feel and quaint charm while offering its visitors opportunities to gaze upon spectacular temples, mingle with rural hill tribe communities, and learn about its former, but still mystifying, opium trade.

There is no shortage of places to explore in northern Thailand's rolling hills - here's what to do in Chiang Rai:

Hot Springs

Visitors can take a dip a toe in Chiang Rai’s naturally-formed hot spring and witness geysers spurting mineral-rich water high into the air. Vendors typically walk around selling eggs, which can be cooked in the hotter water with the help of hand-woven baskets.

The White Temple

Wat Rong Khun, which is more familiarly known as the White Temple, is one of the most magnificent and breathtaking sites to visit in Chiang Rai. Although the White Temple was first constructed no more than twenty years ago, it is one of Chiang Rai’s most visited attractions and it’s not hard to see why.

This almost entirely pure white temple has several unique features including the ubosot (the main building) with its three-tiered roof adorned with serpents and sparkling mirrored glass embedded in the building’s exterior; the Cycle of Rebirth Bridge featuring a circular area with thousands of outstretched hands representing human suffering; and the Gate of Heaven flanked by two creatures that are meant to decide the fate of mankind.

Golden Triangle

Chiang Rai’s Golden Triangle was once a bustling trading hub for opium, which all stemmed from the humble poppy flower. The Golden Triangle became renowned for its opium production during the Vietnam War but cultivation of the flower became illegal and traders were forced out. The pinnacle the Golden Triangle is the overlook at Sop Ruak. Renowned for the coming together of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers, this viewpoint overlooks the border tripoint of Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. Among the attractions within this area is the House of Opium, which combines education and entertainment on the production, use, and sustainable replacement of opium.

Mae Sai Border Market

Hundreds of vendors come together selling delicious Thai snacks, handmade goods and other memorabilia at this Thai-Burmese border market. Visitors are encouraged to snap a picture at the elaborate "Northern Most of Thailand" gate right before the bridge crossing into the neighboring country of Burma (Myanmar).

Akha Hill Tribe Village

One of the six rural tribes in northern Thailand, this community resides in the forest regions along the borders of Thailand, Burma, and Laos. They are recognizable by the intricate headdresses worn by the tribe’s women, which feature silver beads and coins bells, colorful wool pom-poms, and detailed embroidery. In fact, they unique style of embroidered handicrafts make for excellent souvenirs and can be found in many markets in Northern Thailand.

Long Neck Karen Tribe

The Karen hill tribe is best known for its unique custom in which women wear brass rings around their necks which create the illusion of elongated necks. Visitors can take a step into the past witness their historical arts of weaving and wood carving, too.

Bon Voyage Thailand’s Chiang Rai Tours

It is possible to experience these unforgettable sites in a full day trip (7am to 9pm) to Chiang Rai conveniently starting from Chiang Mai through one of two adventures: the Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle tour or the Golden Triangle and Visit to the Long Neck Village Tribe tours. Both tours include air-conditioned transportation with hotel pickup and feature an English speaking guide and lunch - book now for an unforgettable trip to Chiang Rai!